Thursday, July 7, 2011

Yanking the Chain

Both the New York Times and The Washington Post have stories today on The Unthinkable.  Social Security is very much on the table, the once-sacred cow of all self-interested politicians is about to be butchered into chunks.  It's Big!  It's Sweeping! It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to really do something huge to tackle the deficit!

The whole thing seems to be tied to something called the "chained Consumer Price Index" -- which would change the way, for instance, Social Security cost of living increases are determined.  Here and here are some explanations. In a nutshell, chained CPI would result in any beneficiaries making it to age 95 receiving such reduced benefits that they'll  either starve to death or wish for death. Judging from the controlled leaks coming from the semi-permeable budget negotiations, this proposed chained CPI would also have the effect of stealthily changing the tax code and raising billions more in revenue -- but apparently Republicans are having none of it, even if it means giving up the twisted David Brooks fantasy of getting rid of Granny so the grandkids can get theirs. 

This whole story may, after all, be nothing but a hot air balloon powered by the White House propaganda engine to make us all breathe a huge sigh of relief when it comes to pass that President Obama was only bluffing the Republicans, to be able show a grateful nation how craven and intransigent they truly are.... that they are such fools that they turned down his brave machete to save their precious corporate jet loophole.  He is trying to out-Tea Party the Tea Party, and still they aren't buying what he is selling.  Even David Brooks has been reduced to a quivering mass of fear. 

Still, the very fact that Social Security "improvement" is being bandied about at all, when it has nothing to do with the almighty deficit and the totally contrived debt crisis, should have us worried. The rumor I really want to be hearing is how the cap on FICA taxes is going to be raised above the current first $105,000 of income.  But I'll wait awhile before hitting the panic button and launching a full-scale attack on Obama for being the worst of all possible evils. Right now he is merely equivalently evil with None of the Above, Generic Republican, or Blank. 

** Update: From Bold Progressives, here is a petition to be delivered to Obama Campaign HQ in Chicago, with a handy box to write your own personal message, should you be so inclined. I was, I did. 

And thanks to James T. and Jay for the Glenn Greenwald heads-up.  Read it and weep. And realize that signing the petition above will make you feel better but will probably just cause gales of derisive laughter in Chi-town.


Anonymous said...

As draconian as this seems Social Security isn't the worst entitlement problem, Medicare is the far worse and more expensive of the two to fix. Coupled with this adjustment it is likely the payment cap will be raised or eliminated completely. The government needs your money more than you do.


Metro Journalist said...

Don't wait! Start the full-scale attack. We know he's going to cave in to the Republicans. It's just a matter of when.

You blogged about his Reaganisms? He's more Bush than Bush! Social Security is the one Bush territory he hasn't entered until now. I'm surprised that yesterday during his town hall meetings he didn't say, "Heckuva job, Bennie Boy!" when someone mentioned the recession.

Karen Garcia said...

I said I would wait "awhile" before going full throttle. That may be tonight or tomorrow, depending how many more "info" starts dribbling out. Right now we should be revving up while looking in all directions. How much of what is in the NYT is a plant to get the purist base all atwitter, only so the WH can come back say we were all a bunch of screeching lunatics? I wait, I bide my time, before saying O is the worst of all evils -- in other words a traitor every bit as mendacious and evil as the worst right wing Republican who was ever born. By the end of the month, we will have proof positive of his precise degree of evil,and also have proof positive of just which Congressional Dems will be marching in lockstep right along with him. Then we can actively start searching for replacements. This, I believe, can be best accomplished at the local and state levels. The Presidency, as an institution, is ingrained with corruption no matter who the tenant may be.

James F Traynor said...

Read Glenn Greenwald's column in Salon and click on the link to his speech before a socialist group. Fascinating and scary. Our political system has been compromised. The difference between the two parties has diminished to zero. Despite the evidence, I really didn't want to believe this. Greenwald really rubbed my nose in it.

VLT said...

Well, we knew it was coming - once again and opportunity for Obama to use his bully pulpit to call the gangsters out on their devious pursuits. And once again we will get a tepid response and a compromise.

LOTE is fighting for the debt ceiling to be raised because his banker buddies would lose a lot of money if he didn't. It is as simple as that. The only thing Obama fights for are the interests of his corporate masters. If there is a slight advantage to the rest of us (as in raising the debt ceiling), his camp will say it is on behalf of Main Street - but look deeper - it ALWAYS benefits Wall Street.

That is why we can expect little help from his corner on Social Security. But, I too will give him the benefit of the doubt – once again – and see if he mans up, even though I expect he won’t.

Back to the bully pulpit - Honestly! I would be happy to volunteer to be a speech writer for Obama. Keep it simple Barry!

"Do you want YOUR Social Security benefits decreased? Then why would you allow the government to go after your children and grandchildren’s benefits? If you can’t think about the needs of your neighbour, how about your family?" AND "There are economists on both sides of whether or not we can afford Social Security to go on as it is. The ones the country is hearing the most about are the ones who are being paid to say SS is running out of money. Even if it is, a wise response would be for us to shore it up, not throw the baby out with the bathwater."

See done - and I am willing to work for free!

And I AM SERIOUS about Jay's clothespin idea! I think it would be a GREAT symbol of protest!

Jay - Ottawa said...

While we're waiting for the expected cave or the unexpected deus ex machina from debt ceiling talks, I'm hunting for a source of decorous mini clothespins cheap enough to hand out at campaign tables but smooth enough not to pull threads on my blue serge, your silk tie or their rayon blouses. Little clothespins seen at every turn could be the gimmick to keep a nation focused on the stench from DC. Does a third party out there need a logo, an icon, a pet? Consider the lowly clothespin.

VLT said...

Seriously! I just bought some clothespins with ladybugs (or ladybirds as they call them here) on them for my daughter at a craft store! They would be perfect - minus the ladybugs. - Small enough to be tasteful and cheap enough not to hold much together. I think your blue serge and silk tie and my rayon blouse and wool sweaters would be undamaged whilst wearing them. Onward!

Anonymous said...

Now would be the time to let the President and the Congress how we feel on the subject.

We could all send cans of Cat food to the White House with our thoughts written on them. Then each day at the news briefing a reporter could ask how many cans they received? There are lots of us looking for a way to express our anger.


Jay - Ottawa said...

James, thanks. I was not scheduled to orbit Greewald's planet until next week.

At our kindest, we may have thought Obama The Weak was an appeaser by nature and thus easily shoved further and further to the right by Republican Bullies, the Lords of the Universe on Wall Street and the Pentagon-Private Contractor Complex. Seems like those are the folks with whom he always wanted to hang. He was not duped by wily advisers. He has consciously betrayed the Democratic legacy and the hope of progressives in every realm in which a president might act. The dots of evidence for Greenwald's case practically connect themselves.

Here's the address line:

Kate Madison said...

Now will be a good time to see if progressives in Congress (Congressional Progressive Caucus) can get their act together constructively. I sure hope so!!!

Napoleon said...

That Obama's natural inclination is to mediate and that he doesn't step forward with his proposals until he first gives at least one of the extremes ample time in which to state their extreme position, doesn't make him evil. Rather, it means that this is something about Obama we didn't know when he was a candidate. Similarly, we didn't know, when he was a candidate, that his tendency was to shrink from using the bully pulpit either to advance, explain, and defend progressive views or to tear into the views of the right with a non nonsense, direct, forceful, and overwhelming rebuttal. We know these things, and more, now.

We also know that Obama has lost the trust of a significant part of his base and that this segment of the base is apt to believe the worst about him when rumors float from mainstream news sources that he is retreating. And we realize now that we don't know the nature and extent of Obama's true vision concerning the need, and urgency, to correct social injustices and political imbalances, and perhaps at times we suspect there is no such vision or that, to the degree there is, it is not one for which he is willing to take the lead, except for occasional retreats from protecting another cause of progressives. We have also learned that at times these retreats, such as those involving war and war like actions, can take the form of actions that can be characterized as evil.

Obama is hardly likely to change from this basic outline. What adds to the discomfort and mounting sense of misery is that the Democratic leaders in the House, the Senate, and the offices of governors have failed to step forward to pressure Obama publicly or to articulate and defend progressive causes with eloquence, directness, and passion. Here, however, though the evidence remains slim, the likelihood of change may be greater.

ps. The White House denies that social security benefits will be cut. Pelosi today also said cuts in social security benefits are not on the table for negotiation.

Pat said...

Whatever he does, I gave up on him months ago. I'll be darned if I get fooled into voting for a republican again.

Anne Lavoie said...

Oh gee, what a surprise about Obama. Not.

Glen Greenwald states it nicely. The only dot he left unconnected is the Privatization movement that is at the heart of Capitalism: all things in the public realm are a gold mine for the Capitalist cabal and shall be taken by hook or by crook. Currently they are banking, literally, on the crooked guys in the White House and Congress.

They have been taking over public services and lands for more than a decade now as private contractors. Lockheed-Martin alone provides contracted services for almost every single department within our federal government. It's not just parts of the military that has been widely privatized. Obama has helped the movement along just dandy with his mandatory private health insurance program. They couldn't have pulled this off without him, or another President who is willing to sell his soul to the devil for wealth and fame.

Remember the old saying about the bank robbers robbing banks because that's where the money is? Well, look at the where the bulk of the money is spent in our federal budget to see where the Capitalist Robber Barons are planning their next heists: Defense/Security, Social Security, and Medicare. That's where the really big bucks are when they are privatized. And of course public lands.

I think it is an inevitability with our current government and economic system, unless both a President and Congress miraculously 'get religion'. Don't ask me what that would take!

With the path this country is on, get rich or get out will be the only options for us little folk in the future.

Kate Madison said...


Congratulations on a perceptive, astutely observant--yet non-judgmental article on our confusing president. Some see his seeming inability to take a stand as evil. Others see it as evidence that he is at heart quite right-wing. But who really knows? That to me is the issue. We do not know who this president is--or what he truly believes! His mediating co-dependent stance means that he does not (cannot?) define himself, and that is what all of us demand of him.

Having just finished reading the biography of his mother, Ann Dunham, "A Singular Woman," I think I can see more clearly the man who keeps his real thoughts and feelings close to the vest, who has great power, but does not trust it. A conundrum, to be sure.

Karen Garcia said...

Just to be clear -- my referring to the "evil" comparisons was just an extension of the continuing discussion here about whether Obama being the the "Lesser of Two Evils" is still reason enough to vote for him. After the Social Security COLA leaks from the White House, I now more than ever find no good reason to vote for him. Evil, disturbed, clueless, crass.... who cares.
I read the bio of his mom too and what came across painfully in that book is the mild disdain with which he seems to hold her, even to this day. He claims to love her despite her "irresponsibility." Faint praise and all. I highly recommend this book because for one thing, the author does a good job of filling in the blanks of Obama's own memoirs. For instance, I bet you didn't know Mom worked her butt off to pay for his private education and college tuition, did you?
We just found out Obama's father tried to have him adopted when he was an infant, or at least that is what he told immigration officials. Obama apparently found this out himself right before he offered all those trillions of dollars in cuts and apparently joined the Tea Party. I don't care about Obama's damaged psyche at this point. I do care that he does not seem fit to be President! At the very least he should resign from the Democratic Party. We will soon find out if he has succeeded in co-opting it. Probably so, he rakes in the bucks at the DNC fund-raisers.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

I have to support Karen's point of view on this one. I don't doubt that Obama has problems - wanting to please and avoid conflict. We all have issues from our childhood - and I don't mean that flippantly. In the end, as adults, we have the choice of whether to deal with those issues and round out our character development, or allow them to stay immature character flaws. In my opinion, Obama has taken the easy road on that one.

And quite frankly, if he is someone who is afraid of conflict, he is in the wrong job.

The best thing that could happen to this country right now is for Obama to step down - but of course it won't happen. Just as with "W," he has enough sycophants, manipulators and handlers around him to convince himself he is doing a great job. I saw Obama interviewed about a year-and-a half ago on Oprah and he gave his presidency a "B" - an "A-" if he got " . . . health care passed." I was incredulous! How out of touch was this guy? I remember shouting – “Really? Because I would give you a D!”

What is that old saying? All it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing. While Obama may not personify evil, his actions and the actions he takes on behalf of the corporations that hurt most Americans are evil. Like Ronald Reagan, he might make a friendly and pleasant next-door neighbour, but the power he has knowingly wielded has resulted in great harm.